Sunday, 3 July 2016


“Impressionism; it is the birth of Light in painting.” - Robert Delaunay

For Art Sunday, Ludovic Piette-Montfoucault (11 May 1826, Niort - 14 April 1878, Paris) who was a French Impressionist painter. A portrait of Piette by Camille Pisarro, painted in 1874 can be seen here.

He came from a family of the minor nobility and his father was the Registrar of Melleray. His first art lessons came from the Academic painters Thomas Couture and Isidore Pils. It was while studying with Couture that he met Édouard Manet, whom he admired and who was already experimenting with new styles. Then, while at the Académie Suisse, he became good friends with Camille Pissarro who, although younger than him, would have a decisive influence on Piette’s work. He and Pisarro formed a lasting friendship. He and other friends of Pissarro would often paint together, en plein-air. In 1857, he had his first show at the Salon. In 1860, Piette participated in the first exhibition of the Impressionists, invited by Pisarro.

He is said to have received a commission from Napoleon III to provide decorations for the apartments of Empress Eugénie, but there is no official record of this. In 1864, because of poor health (possibly cancer), he and his wife settled at his family’s farm, which he had inherited after his father’s death, near Lassay-les-Châteaux in Brittany. At that time, he began writing regularly to Pissarro, whose correspondence is an important record of the formative years of Impressionism, a period with little other documentation. While there, he served on the Municipal council as part of the Liberal Conservative faction.

As with many Impressionists, Piette tended to focus on landscapes with figures and cityscapes. Among his favourite areas for painting were Pontoise and Louveciennes. In 1877, at Pissarro’s invitation, he participated in the third Impressionist Exhibition. After his death, a retrospective of his work was presented at the fourth Exhibition in 1879. A street and a school in Pontoise are named in his honour. Also, at the Camille Pisarro Museum in Pontoise, several of Piette’s canvases are exhibited.

Piette produced paintings that show evidence of a worthy landscapist, and these works were always well appreciated by the paying public. In each of his works, Piette was an attentive observer of the social reality of rural life and his canvases abound with everyday detail, and in some cases amusing anecdote. His colours and modelling are impressionistic in style, but often his work reminds one of the subject matter favoured by the Brueghels, with crowds of people engaged in various everyday activities. The painting above is typical of Piette’s work. It is the “Market on the Rue de Chateau, Pontoise”, painted in 1876.

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